United on the Cool Front
The adjectives "dank" and "depressing" used to go a long way here in Manchester. Today, you're more likely to hear the words "dynamic" and "cosmopolitan." Manchester has come a long way from its industrial beginnings. Factories no longer dominate the commercial landscape, and smoke no longer fills the skyline. Instead you'll find a center for the arts, media, higher education and of course, football (Go United!)
It's easy to arrive here with a BritRail Pass and the four main train stations in the center of Manchester – Piccadilly, Victoria, Oxford Road and Deansgate. From London, it's a bit over two hours, Liverpool is just about an hour and Glasgow a little over three hours. The city is actually the home of the very first passenger railway station. And the firsts don't end there. This was the home of the first computer, the socialist and trade union movement (thanks to immigrants being used as factory workers) and the first public lending library.
The transformation of the city begins in Salford Quays at what is simply known as "The Lowry." This complex, named after L.S. Lowry, the painter of industrial scenes in North West England, “ exists to enrich people's lives and to contribute to the creative well-being of the people” according to the official website. Here you'll find a combined theater and gallery complex, including a free museum dedicated to the painter alongside important loans from public and private collections around Britain.
The Trafford Centre, another transformative project that was the longest and most expensive in the history of the United Kingdom, is a large, indoor shopping center. It's size is so massive, it provided the setting for a daytime TV show on the BBC. The food court, called "The Orient" is home to a whopping 60 restaurants. You'll also find plenty of popular shops including a four-storey Marks and Spencer.
On a more serious note, nearby you'll find the Imperial War Museum North, which explores the impact of modern conflicts on people and society. The site overlooks the Manchester Ship Canal in Trafford Park, an area that was heavily bombed during the Manchester Blitz in 1940.
Need a rest? The award-winning Heaton Park is one of the largest municipal parks in Europe, covering 610 acres of parkland. This is just one of over 130 open spaces within the city.
Manchester is well-known for football (soccer to us yanks.) You can tour the stadiums of both the United and City teams. United's Old Trafford ground is the largest club in the UK, with a capacity of 76,000. Seeing a game here is an unbelievable spectacle and the fans, well, let's just say they're rather impassioned.
This can also be said about the city as a whole. Manchester started with the Romans and morphed into a morose industrial wasteland. Thanks to a passionate effort to turn this city into something special, Manchester has achieved an international reputation as a vibrant and dynamic destination. Lowry's canvases be damned.
Contributed by: Peter, VP of Sales. Peter was born in Britain and has spent a number of years living and visiting different parts of Europe.